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New polls show tight governor’s race, but not-so-tight Senate race in Ohios

September 26, 2018

New polls show tight governor’s race, but not-so-tight Senate race in Ohios

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A pair of new polls find that Ohio’s governor’s race is tight heading into the November election.

But the Senate race? Not so much.

The two Ohio surveys released Wednesday were conducted by two respected, national pollsters —Ipsos/Reuters and NBC News/Marist College. They have similar results, and also broadly mirror the results of other recent polls in Ohio. 

“There is wide agreement that Sherrod Brown is well-positioned in the U.S. Senate race,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, which was a partner in the Ipsos Reuters poll. “He likely will lead the Democratic statewide ticket and national Republicans seem to be focusing on other races at this point. The big question is, can Brown pull [Democratic governor nominee Richard Cordray] and other statewide Democrats over the finish line? My guess is that if the governor’s race is very close, the other statewides must be fairly close as well.”

Governor’s race

The Ipsos poll found Republican Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine leads former Cordray, the former chief of the national Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, 45 percent to 44 percent, with 23 percent of respondents undecided. Both are running to replace Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is term-limited.

The Marist poll found DeWine and Cordray tied at 47 percent. When Green and Libertarian candidates were added in, the two front-runners were tied at 44 percent.

That makes the race a statistical toss-up, although Cordray has narrowly trailed in three other Ohio polls this month, too. 

“That indicates the election really is going to come down to who’s able to best motivate and mobilize their supporters,” said Ipsos Vice President Chris Jackson.

Senate race

In the Ipsos poll, Sen. Brown, the incumbent, leads Republican Rep. Jim Renacci 50 percent to 39 percent. Another 26 percent were undecided/other, but when pressed to give an answer, 50 percent of those picked Brown. 

In the Marist poll, Brown led Renacci 52 percent to 39 percent, with 7 percent undecided.

Notably, both polls were conducted in a period during which Renacci and his allies launched a publicity campaign to call attention to Brown’s ugly 1986 divorce. Three other polls released this month likewise have found Brown holding a double-digit lead. (One, released on Sept. 6, found Brown leading by 4 points, although that seems to be an outlier.)

Trump / congressional races

In both polls, Republican President Donald Trump has a negative approval rating, and respondents generically favored Democrats in congressional races. Both numbers may offer insight into how Ohio’s congressional races may turn out, although because of how districts are designed, and because of the peculiarities of each individual race, don’t directly predict an outcome. 

The Ipsos poll found 44 percent of Ohioans approved of the job he’s doing, with a majority, 54 percent, disapproving. The Marist poll was similar on Trump, with 44 percent approving and 51 percent disapproving.

Meanwhile, 46 percent of respondents to the Ipsos poll said they’d vote for the Democratic congressional candidate in their district, while 42 percent said Republican.

The Marist poll framed the question differently, asking respondents if they’d prefer a Congress controlled by Republicans or Democrats. But the results were similar, with 49 percent saying they preferred a Democratic controlled congress versus 43 percent who said Republican.

Of Ohio’s 16 congressional races, the race for Ohio’s 1st (Southwest Ohio) and 12th (Central Ohio) congressional districts — both held by Republicans — are viewed as potential toss-ups. Other Republican-held seats are viewed as being in reach for Democrats only if the electorate veers more sharply into “blue wave” territory.

Other results in the Ipsos poll suggest that Democratic voters are slightly more engaged in Ohio than Republicans, but not by the same margins as some other states, Jackson said. This cuts against the narrative of a “blue wave.” 

Issues

In the Ipsos poll, voters identified health care (16 percent), the economy (16 percent) and immigration (12 percent) as the most important issues that would determine their vote.

In the Marist poll, voters likewise identified jobs and the economy (23 percent) health care (21 percent) and immigration (11 percent) as the three most important issues.

Both results are in line with other recent Ohio polls, as well as search data compiled by Google and shared with cleveland.com.

Jackson said health care is an issue that tends to favor Democrats, while immigration tends to favor Republicans. The economy, he said, is more mixed. 

“I think you’re going to see a lot of messaging and ads on either side of those issues,” Jackson said. “The big thing to watch for is who’s going to pull ahead, based on how well that messaging is connecting with voters.”

More on the statewide candidates

In the Ipsos poll, voters were asked whether they viewed each of the four statewide candidates as a “traditional politician.” DeWine (78 percent) and Brown (70 percent) got the highest results. Both have been fixtures of Ohio politics since the late 1970s.

Cordray (59 percent) and Renacci (52 percent) got lower scores, although this seems to correspond more than anything with increased numbers of voters saying they didn’t know.

The Marist poll asked for opinions about each of the major four statewide candidates.

Brown was the most popular, with 45 percent saying they had a favorable opinion of him, versus 29 percent who said unfavorable.

Second was DeWine, with 42 percent saying they viewed him favorably versus 34 percent unfavorable.

Third was Cordray, with a 39 percent 26 percent favorable/unfavorable rating.

And last was Renacci, of whom 29 percent said they’d viewed him favorably versus 26 unfavorably. 

Renacci also was the least known candidate, with 45 percent saying they were unsure or had never heard of him. Renacci notably is the only one of the four candidates who has not yet bought TV ads during the current general election campaign.

More about the polls

The Ipsos poll was conducted from Sept. 13 to Sept. 20, questioning 1,074 likely voters with a confidence interval of plus or minus 3.4 percent. Participants took online surveys, with results weighted to reflect 2016 census numbers in Ohio. Jackson said his firm also overweighted rural respondents, since online surveys tend to attract higher numbers of urban and suburban residents. The results were not cross-referenced to match respondents up with the individual voter identities many research firms have developed using a mix of social media profiles, voting records, political campaign records and other information.

Ipsos got a B+ for accuracy from FiveThirtyEight.com, the polling website’s highest rating for online political polling firms. Traditional polling — live callers calling a mix of land-lines and cell phones, is viewed as more accurate, but also is considerably more expensive. 

Ipsos also released polls Wednesday for nearby Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. To varying degrees, they found Democrats leading in the Senate and governor’s races in those states as well.

The NBC/Marist poll was conducted from Sept. 16 to Sept. 20, with 564 likely voters giving interviews after being contacted via a mix of cell phones and land lines. The margin of error for likely voters is plus or minus 5 percent. Results were weighted using 2016 census data.

Marist has an A rating from FiveThirtyEight.com. 

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